Cambodia’s feuding mobile phone firms could lose their operating licenses if they continue to block calls between their networks and to give below cost calls to their customers, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned in a letter published in local newspapers.
The prime minister’s intervention letter, dated Oct 21 and published over the weekend, marks an escalation in the government’s bid to put an end to disputes, and though the prime minister did not single out any company by name, his letter comes amid the most high-profile row between MobiTel and Beeline.
Beeline last month accused MobiTel of blocking calls from its network to MobiTel’s customers. MobiTel in turn accused Beeline of price dumping by charging below-cost for calls made by its customers to other networks.
In his letter, the prime minister said “The Royal Government will take strict measures on any telecommunications operator who does not respect this order and still continues to block cross network connections or competes dishonestly leading to chaos in Cambodia’s telecommunications market.”
The prime minister also orders companies to set up a fee scale based on “basic capital costs,” and demanded compliance with an letter from Finance Minister Keat Chhon and Minister of Posts and Telecommunications So Khun that branded free calls and below cost calls “unfair.”
Representatives of both MobiTel and Beeline have for weeks declined to comment on the dispute.
Kirill Mankovsky, chief marketing officer of Smart Mobile, which offers free calls within its network, said a meeting of the nine mobile phone companies on Friday did not decide whether his company’s free calls promotions acceptable.
“There was discussion among operators including the MPTC about regulations and how pricing will be regulated,” he said, adding that more meetings are planned on the issue. “The government wants fair competition, but a definition has not been decided.”
The feud between MobiTel and Beeline was also discussed, he said. “Of course this dispute will have to be resolved because it is not good for either parties or the industry,” he said.
Shafquat Hussein, chief financial officer of the Qb network, said at Friday’s meeting representatives of Beeline complained that only a fraction of their calls to MobiTel and Hello Point were successful.
According to Mr Hussein, Qb began phasing our free calls promotion two days after the premier issued his letter, adding that the government is trying to balance investor profits with costs and quality service for customers.
“The government is actually fair enough that they have called us to comment,” he said. “My understanding is that the government wants operators to be as friendly as possible with each other and the government as well.”